Whew, what a time at Badwater this year!! and what a time recovering!!
First off, Congrats to Connie for finishing in 47 hours 37 mins! You made it happen and I am so proud of you for pushing through those tough times, even if I did worry you with no sleep, or very little that it.
We all left for Badwater on Sunday, the day before the race, as we have in the past 2 years crewing for other runners. This year there would be 3 of us on Connie's crew, myself, Ivan and Mark, who crewed for her last year. Her husband would join us on the 2nd day of the race as he had some personal things to attend to. Once we got on the road it was smooth sailing and we were soon at Furnace Creek Ranch/Hotel. This year there is construction occurring on the visitors center so all the festivities were moved to the Furnace Creek Resort, athlete check in, meetings, and the vendors as well as the group athlete photo. It was great seeing previous runners from the years before and meeting new ones, most noticeable was Ray Sanchez, who I will be rooming with in India for La Ultra - The High 135 next month.
After all the meetings were concluded we checked in at the Furnace Creek Hotel, got settled in and I went to dinner and walk around to the new crew meeting there were hosting this year. Lots of great questions and ideas were talked about and I think this is a great idea for new crews coming into the race. After dinner I saw Tim Duffy, crewing for Pam Muston from Australia and chatted with him for a while before heading back to the room. Once back in the room I quickly settled in for early bed time and before 8pm I was out. The alarm came at 5am and I was off to breakfast only to realize I had lost my debit card! I asked the manager if he could look in the cafe, he did, but no luck so I was on the phone with the bank while eating to cancel the card, luckily, I had another one with me or else I would have been SOL as I had spent most of my cash on a few things from the vendors, the best thing being Marshall Ulrich book which he autographed!
After breakfast it was load the van and we were ready to go heading to the start line for 8am. Once there it was quickly hurry up and take some pictures, group photo at the Badwater sign and then get on the road for the National Anthem and start of the race. Bang! The race started and we were off. I started driving as Ivan and Mike started crewing and all things were moving along just as planned but this is Badwater and all bets are off on a sure thing and soon enough it started heating up and the wind started blowing, then after a couple of hours Connie was not able to go pee and this continued for the rest of the day! With short bouts of concentrated drops she was basically dehydrated and it was causing a little bit of stress on her part worrying about this, as it should. Overall the crewing/driving during the first day was pretty standard compared to my previous 2 years. The wind was pretty damn annoying than previous years but it wasn't as hot as the past either, 114*. Now I know by all means that is HOT! esp. when you are out in it constantly so don't get me wrong and then you add in 22+mph winds and it just sucks! Welcome to Death Valley!!!
Working with 3 crew members was actually a little difficult compared to previous years simply because one is driving and two are crewing. Then after a long day and your tired, only one person can sleep while the other two drive/crew. I paced a little on the first day heading in towards Stovepipe Wells and just before we got there we pulled ahead to restock with ice, supplies and gas. I did notice a change in the gas system this year and you had to pre-authorize your card before pumping, no pay at the pump, like last year and the ice pick up was moved to way behind the convenience store, making it not so convenient but I can understand as last year the ice machine was right up front and it was pretty congested. Once stalked back up we caught up with Connie who was making her way up the long road to Towne's Pass.
This is a long grind it out uphill section and the earlier you get there the more sun you have directly in your face, but an 8am start put us there just as the sun was starting to lighten up and set, so by the time time she was half way up the climb the sun had set and the cooler temperatures were a nice blessing along with less wind. As the night started her body decided to get on board with the peeing and she started to go!! yahoo!! all throughout the night and the remainder of the race she was back on track but the long day not going surely took some energy both physically and mentally. As the night progressed we started a rotation for sleeping, I would sleep last or later in the night and I keep driving. Once the first rotation was over I continued to drive but as the early morning came and we were heading down towards Paniment I had stopped as a normal crewing spot, as I parked and waited Mark had jumped out and went to go crew and I feel asleep, next thing I know I hear some foot steps coming and I wake up and see two other runners going by but I didn't recognize them. I looked at the clock and realized I had been sleeping for about 15-20mins. Just then a car pulls up behind me and I can see its the race official, he comes over to the van and asks: "How's it going?" I said.. "well I am not sure, looking around"... he said: "what you mean, did you loose your runner? Feel asleep did you?" I said, "yeah I sure did about 20 mins" He laughed and said yeah it happens. "I just came down the hill and all the runners behind you have there crews so your runner is ahead of you so just drive down the road and I'm sure you'll see her, is she will a pacer?"...."yes, cuz I only see one guy sleeping in the back". So I took off down the road and caught up to them. I actually love this part of the race course at night because you can see all the hazard lights blinking from one side of the valley all the way to the other, as far as you can see, its like 20+ miles across, this year I would see it in the early morning hours and during the day light and that is a sweet sight as well.
As Paniment Springs approached, mile 72.3, we dropped off Mark to take a shower and get cleaned up but unfortunately I was not able to do the same as there was a line and it was a little busy in the morning hours so we just restocked on gas and ice and I did a bird bath in the bathroom and changed clothes. Back on the road out of Paniment it was time to climb up to Father Crowley's point which is just another long grind it out switch backs and turns to get to the top, this took most of the morning till about noon when once at the top I had cell phone reception and was able to speak with Connie's husband, David, who would be coming out to meet us later in the day and was on his way. Surprisingly enough I had many points of cell phone service the rest of the race which means they have added towers along the way! Nice!
The second day of the race wasn't so much more tiring for me as I think it was for Mark and Ivan as they had worked non-stop the first day with me driving most of the day so I was still holding strong on the 2nd day. As we made our way towards Darwin, mile 90, we had told Connie that David was on his way and this seem to lift her spirits as during this time I was starting to calculate her finish time and she was starting to push the 48 hour cutoff time. She asked a couple of times and I said she was okay but it was going to be close so keep moving. I started pacing more this 2nd day and just trying to keep her moving and as we approached Darin we were finally seeing a couple of other crews and runners as it had been a long time since we had seen no one. After the Darwin check point David showed up and he jumped on board and Mike went to Lone Pine to rest up at the hotel, they had wanted me to go since I had not rested but there was still 30 miles to Lone Pine and that meant about 8-10 hours so I didn't want to be away that long so I said I was fine and I actually still was. As the 2nd night started to come we had just crossed over the 100 mile mark and Connie started to pick up the pace and was working really good to get to Lone Pine, however, when it was finally dark and all she could see was the lights of Keeler, mile 107, she thought was Lone Pine she was running with a vengeance but when she reached Keeler she was quite upset knowing that Lone Pine was still another 13 miles! It was not a happy time for her I know and David had been out with her for a while now pacing her and said she was not happy and in a down mood. As we got closer to Lone Pine she had to take a nap, about the 3rd or 4th one since we started and just a short 10 mins at a time. After the short break we pushed on to Lone Pine, refueled picked up Mike and off we went to the Portal Road for Mt. Whitney.
This 13 mile stretch is always work and the road has some crazy steep switch backs. As the sun rose I remember thinking this was my 3rd sun rise in a 48 hour race, sweet! but the clock was ticking and now Connie was right on the wire or just a hair over the cutoff. She really got into the last few miles and worked her butt off to get up those switch packs and made it happen. Its always amazing to see the runner dig so deep that they make it happen! I could tell her mind was focused and she was set on finishing before the cutoff. You don't come all that way and not push to make it and she was not going to be the exception. Again, looking at her face, her mood, and her determination I was inspired and thought this is what makes the race, the journey, the last 47 hours all worth every minute and sleepless wink I didn't get. We crossed the finish line at 47:37!! She was the last official finisher of the race and earned next years last page photo for being the last official female finisher (the male finisher will be in there too) So being last does have perks!
Once we finished all the photos and congrats we jumped in the van and headed back to Lone Pine to the hotel. I told Connie.. "you have your buckle now, I'm going to sleep!" I literally passed out and slept the whole ride back to the hotel.
to be continued...